“Your homework is to write a 10-page essay on the word ‘that’.” announced the teacher.
The class grumbled in response. One student spoke up: “That’s impossible!”
“Nothing is impossible,” responded the teacher. “That negative attitude won’t get you far in life.”
“No,” responded the student, “I’m serious. ‘That’ is such an abstract and common word. How are we supposed to write a 10-page essay on it?”
“That’s your challenge. Let’s see how creative you can get.”
Most students brought back essays explaining this or that about the etymology of the word. But the student who had objected to the assignment had had a different idea. She had written a 10-page essay about the need for better teacher training in public schools: all without using the word “that” once. It was an impressive achievement, but the teacher didn’t see it that way…